I, Tonya is a trip! The sad, low rent story of skating Olympian Tonya Harding whose team infamously hobbled her skating rival Nancy Kerrigan back in 1994 is a masterful and savage biopic that teeters on satire. Harding was born dirt poor and loved skating and became one of the best in the US, a two time Olympian, the first woman to successfully execute two triple Axels in a single competition, and the first to complete a triple Axel in combination with a double toe loop. So anyhow, Harding’s distant and domineering mother played mercilessly by Allison Janney drives a stake in their relationship and Tonya bounces to men of low character. Margot Robbie’s performance as Harding is pure gold, exaggerated wretched, needy in one of the years’ most interesting performances. She plays Harding as a nerve shattering nag, but a nag we come to like and to a degree, understand.
Matt Damon who is coming under fire for categorising sexual assault by degrees isn’t too popular right now but his new film Downsizing is intriguing and timely. He and his wife are suburbanites who opt to be downsized in a future America, in order to be green, fight global crowding and have access to the things they always wanted but could never afford. Becoming five inches “tall” goes a long way in building wealth as little things don’t cost much. But science chose to ignore the potential psychological, moral and societal ramifications of these “advances” and we see play out what we fear about new tech. At the last second his wife played by Kristen Wiig refuses to go through with it. He’s shrunk, he sees things, his life begins anew, he meets an unlikely soulmate. He now has a purpose and that’s the save the shrunken with the help of his housemaid, played fearlessly by Hong Chau. Alexander Payne pulls together satire, melodrama and sci-f with abundant grace and intelligence.
Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and Hailee Steinfeld lead the Bellas in their third big screen outing Pitch Perfect 3 a perfectly upbeat holiday film with a built-in fan base. The acapella World Champions are finding employment opps rare after the big and go their ways. But then they are invited to regroup for an overseas USO tour. Then a spanner in the works, as Beca’s singled out for a record deal. The girls are back and in top form with Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Hana Mae Lee, John Lithgow and those nutty broadcasters played by John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks who also directs. Holiday cheer on harmonic steroids.
Hugh Jackman brings a colourful historical character to vivid life in The Greatest Showman. He is P.T. Barnum, unemployed and at a loss for opportunities, when he has an idea that would not only solve his financial problems but change the course of culture and arts in North America back in the 1850’s. He gathered an extraordinary group of people (played by Michelle Williams, Zac Efron and Zendaya) some famous, some not, some authentically talented, others charlatans. He didn’t care, if they put on a good show, they had a home. He promoted songbird Jenny Lind, a four year old boy trained and passed off as Tom Thumb, a smokin’ and drinkin’ midget, acrobats, highwire artists and assorted cranks. He also performed an autopsy for the fans. Barnum’s “hokum” (publicity) and savvy made him wealthy and famous, but he was also an author, publisher, philanthropist, and politician. The Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Circus permanently closed its doors just seven months ago.
On Christmas Day you’ll get to see why Christopher Plummer won nominations for a role he filmed just a few weeks ago, replacing disgraced Kevin Spacey. Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World recounts the 1973 kidnapping of sixteen year old John Paul Getty III, and the refusal of his grandfather, the richest man in the world at the time, John Paul Getty, to pay the $17M ransom. He claimed that paying would make all members of the family vulnerable. The teen’s mother and a Getty employee decide to figure out a way themselves. Michelle Williams, Mark Wahlberg and Charlie Plummer (no relation) co-star. It’s based on the book Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty by John Pearson.
Also on Christmas Day Jessica Chastain stars in Aaron Sorkin’s Molly’s Game, a hard edged, fast moving true story of an Olympic skier turned illegal gambling den assistant who realises she can do much better as an owner and becomes one of the leading hosts in the world. Only a person of great drive, smarts and firm grasp of human psychology could hope to topple the competition and that’s just what she had. For ten years she ran the most exclusive club catering to royalty, Hollywood and high rollers until the Feds came and offered her a way out. It’s highly entertaining watching this tiny powerhouse shoot down the big fellas who underestimate her – not that I support illegal gambling – and look fab at all times.
Bright – Netflix Will Smith and Joel Edgerton take on a world of evil in the streets of Los Angeles in Bright, directed by the Suicide Squad and Training Day’s David Ayer. Two LAPD police officers in a dystopian and brutally ugly world must fight orks, fairies and an atomic blonde elf played to save the world. It’s a dark and grisly world too and it needs saving as warring criminal and gang factions are the only people out there. The Human and the Orc cops must join forces with the elf to halt sinister forces of the underworld. Noomi Rapace and Lucy Fry co-star. Check our interview with rising star Lucy Fry!
The National Film Board of Canada has released important Canadian films free for viewing on its website, including Sarah Polley’s jaw dropping autobiographical film Stories We Tell, a feature documentary that’s inspired, genre-twisting film directed by Oscar -nominee Sarah Polley and produced by Anita Lee for the National Film Board of Canada. Polley’s playful investigation into the elusive truth buried within the contradictions of a family of storytellers paints a touching and intriguing portrait of a complex network of relatives, friends, and strangers.
Also available is the newly released Things Arab Men Say, directed by Edmonton’s Nisreen Baker. It follows a diverse group of Arab-Canadian men who gather at Jamal’s Eden Barber Shop in St. Albert near Edmonton to discuss politics, religion and family over a cut and a shave.
Mina Shum’s Ninth Floor takes a look back forty years to Sir George Williams Riot, aka The Computer Riot when Caribbean students at the Montreal university accused their professor of racism and launching the biggest student occupation in Canadian history incurring damages of $2M. 95 students were arrested and divided into groups by race. Shum located some of the student participants and gives them a voice to clarify events and make peace with it.
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